Senators deny accusations of insider trading ahead of COVID-19 outbreak

This is a rush transcript from "The Story with Martha MacCallum," March 20, 2020. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Good evening, Bret. This is Martha McCallum, and this is "The Story". Tonight it is all about the balance between hope and reality and the economy and cascading shutdowns.

On this Friday as more states shutter nearly everything, and week one of containment, folks, is almost behind us. "The Wall Street Journal" says that it is time that we balance the shutdown with the realities of the U.S. economy.

This as the President tries to balance hope of coming drug breakthroughs with the realities on the ground. There was tension on that in today's briefing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Fauci said there is no magic drug for Coronavirus right now which you would agree?

TRUMP: Let me--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess on this issue.

TRUMP: Well, I think we only disagree a little bit.


TRUMP: I disagree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it possible that your impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope.

TRUMP: I don't think so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?

TRUMP: I say that you are a terrible reporter that's what I say.


MACCALLUM: Obviously a tense moment there and in moments we will be joined by the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams on that clash between White House optimism and the facts on the ground. He will also answer your questions. Thank you for sending those today on Twitter we'll get a couple of those up with him in just a moment.

And then Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana as New Orleans becomes a hot spot. Also Steve Hilton is with us on "The Wall Street Journal's" contention that, "No society can safeguard public health for long at the cost of its overall economic health". This is theme we are going to revisit quite a bit tonight as it becomes one of the biggest points of debate in the coming days and weeks in America.

Victor Davis Hanson also joins me on the deepening alliance of Russia and China as the secretive nations bond over the complex issues of blame and transparency and then tonight before we say good night to you, a priest who offers drive-thru confessions we will talk to him.

But we begin tonight with U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. Dr. Adams, thank you so much for being with us tonight. I know.


MACCALLUM: I know you have had long days and a lot of work ahead of you. Hello there. First of all, I want to ask you about some breaking news just moments ago with regard to someone testing positive in Vice President Pence's Office. Can you tell us anything about that?

ADAMS: Well, one thing I can tell you is that White House medical staff was fantastic. They called me right away. They said this is a person who you did not have any contact with and you are at low to no risk. And they asked me if I had any symptoms and I said no.

So they told me I didn't need to be tested. So I just want to really say thank you to the White House medical staff. They were very professional. And we will continue to hear about more cases across the country. And it's important that we all remain calm and that we remember that if you didn't have direct exposure, if you don't have symptoms, then you don't need to be tested but you should always talk your medical provider.

MACCALLUM: So what did you make of that exchange that we just played between reporter Peter Alexander and the President, sort of this debate over whether or not the White House is putting too rosier a spin on things at this point, what do you say to that?

ADAMS: Well, the messaging has always been challenging. We are trying to give people optimism but also encourage them to be cautious. That's why from the beginning I have always said we need to prepare but not panic. You see panic in some places. And that results in people hoarding. That results in people pulling knives on each other over hand sanitizer.

We do need to calm people down and from my experience, that's what the President has always tried to do is calm people down while also really helping people understand this is serious and we all need to lean into it. And you saw that earlier this week with the 15-days to stop the spread guidelines that the President put out saying look, America, its go-time.

MACCALLUM: So you do you think the President is being overly optimistic about the anti-malarial drug Remdesivir which have seen some positive results in some trials?

ADAMS: Well, I wasn't at today's press conference. We were practicing social distancing. But I did see it. I was quite frankly fascinated at the stories that came out of that. There was no - there was no disconnect between what Tony Fauci was saying and what the President was saying.

The President was saying number one we have two drugs out there and he is optimistic and hopeful, based on some of the studies and what they have heard that these drugs will be helpful to people and that's why we are providing them for people on a compassionate use basis.

But Tony Fauci appropriately said we need to make sure we are following up the data, that we see the studies so that we can actually tell people for certain down the road whether this is effective or not. So those two aren't incongruent that's science. We are hopeful but we're also cautious.

MACCALLUM: What do you tell people - I'm sorry, what do you tell people when they say when will these be sort of in common use when anyone who is, you know, in the hospital with breathing trouble would be given these drugs right away? What's the time frame?

ADAMS: Well, that's a fantastic question. We have always told people we have kind of a three tiered response. And I will go backwards. Tier 3 is vaccines. Weave know it will likely be next year before we get a vaccine for this disease. Tier 2 is actually looking at therapeutics things like Remdesivir like the drugs that you've heard about today.

And we've always said it will probably be midsummer before we have enough data to be able to say for certain whether or not these drugs are promising. They're now being made available in record time on compassionate use basis just in case.

But Tier one is actually mitigation. When you look at this outbreak and all other outbreaks, you don't solve these outbreaks the first go around with therapeutics or vaccines. You solve them by social distancing. We saw that in the 1918 flu outbreak. We are seeing it in Singapore. We saw it in South Korea and in China.

It's making sure you stay six feet away from people. It's the President's guidelines. Making sure you are in groups of less than 10. Making sure you are pulling down unnecessary travel.

MACCALLUM: I think everybody--

ADAMS: Yes. Well, I hope everybody knows that but it's funny when you look on TV and you drive around people don't seem to be getting it in some places so it's important to reemphasize those mitigation techniques.

MACCALLUM: No it is. I totally agree. I was going to say I think people are really trying to adapt to it.

ADAMS: They are trying. They are trying I do want to give America credit. We have been hard on our millennials and our Gen Z's but a lot of them out there are doing great things. That I just want to give a shout out to the folks who gave blood after I put out my announcement at the press conference yesterday letting people know that there is a shortage of blood in this country but it is safe to give blood. You know we have got good people in this country and I'm confident they will rally and do the right thing.

MACCALLUM: All right. Let's put up the chart that shows the acceleration in the last 14 days which is dramatic. But it was expected, right, because we are seeing so many more people being tested now.

ADAMS: Well, exactly. We have seen a big increase in testing this week and that's resulted in more positives. But we also need to be straight about it with everyone. We are where Italy was just a few weeks ago in terms of numbers. And we have to make a decision do we want to go the trajectory of Italy or do we want to look more like South Korea and Singapore?

What South Korea and Singapore did was aggressive social mitigation. The scientists on the task force shared that information with the Vice President and the President and they said let's put out these guidelines right now to give states the tools that they need and the cover that they need to make some of these tough decisions you are seeing Governors making.

MACCALLUM: So I said that we had a couple of questions. There were actually a lot of really good questions that came in on Twitter.

ADAMS: I was following your Twitter there were goofed questions.

MACCALLUM: Oh, good. So here is one from Steven: has the federal government identified each of the hospitals in the United States with an immediate, if not urgent need for protective gear for their doctors and nurse? Have they identified them, Surgeon General and how long will it be before all those needs are met?

ADAMS: That is a great question and I am still a practicing physician. I practice at Walter Reed. These physicians are calling me directly. What I want you to know is that a couple of big things happened this week. You had the bill that was passed that the President signed which allows 30 million more masks amounts from 3-M and Honeywell to be made available for medical use.

You also saw the Department of Defense donate from their stockpile ventilators and masks. And importantly, FEMA went to level 1 and folks don't understand but what that means is that FEMA can work directly with the states the way they work with them through hurricanes and they have this down to a science to make sure they figure out who needs what and to get it to them.

Right now one of the problems is the majority of the supplies is going out into the open market. They may not be going where they need to be. Why we also putted out guidelines to pull down elective procedures this week. We don't need people on one part of the country using PPE to do elective cases and cosmetic and while people in New York or in Washington are suffering because they can't take care of themselves to take care of the patients.

MACCALLUM: I'm going to squeeze in one more if you could give if you're able to give a quick answer I'd appreciate it. This is from Lars, testing positive for Coronavirus means that we need to isolate at home but since we are already isolating at home anyway, what is gained by getting the test?

ADAMS: Well, what's gained by getting the test is that hopefully you will be even more vigilant because we know that people aren't always following those social mitigation guidelines. But also if you go in the hospital if you get sicker it's important for your healthcare providers to know so that they can appropriately use PPE and protect them.

One of our tenets says we need to protect the people who are out there protecting the people. And I want the healthcare providers out there and the first responders to know we are trying as hard as we can to make sure we're getting you PPE where you need it. As your Surgeon General I still practice and I have got your back we are leaning in to this.

MACCALLUM: Sr. Adams, thank you very much. Good to have you with us tonight. Keep up the good work. I know everybody is really working overtime and hard on this. And we really appreciate you taking some time with us tonight.

ADAMS: Thank you Martha and Again I'm happy to answer more questions on Twitter.

MACCALLUM: Great. We look forward to it. Thank you so much Dr. Jerome Adams the Surgeon General. So in the State of Louisiana there are now more than 500 cases of COVID-19. Senator John Kennedy is here on the response in his home state and on reports to some of his colleagues may have engaged in insider trading coming up next.


MACCALLUM: There is some growing outrage tonight toward a handful of U.S. Senators who appeared to have sold large amounts of stock before the recent COVID crash and after they were briefed on the potential severity of the pandemic.

Charlie Gasparino Senior Correspondent at Fox Business has the story for us. Charlie good to have you here tonight, obviously always difficult to prove insider trading on information what's your take on this situation?

CHARLES GASPARINO, FOX BUSINESS SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: You know I have written a book - on it at least one book on it. I have covered it for years. I can tell you this, what they did may look sleazy and bad. But I'm telling you trading off government information are just not part of the insider trading laws that exist today.

You know, there is no law. It's just a bunch of court precedence. And those court precedence's essentially cover stealing information from shareholders like earnings reports and, you know, things of that nature.

These guys may be guilty of violating the 2012 Stock Act which preventing Congress from using their confidential briefings to trade on but even that act, Martha has a lot of loopholes. You could essentially say listen, I was reasonably told by my broker I should sell or I heard similar stuff from a third party as these Senators are doing.

So if you want to nail them on insider trading. Good luck. I don't think it's ever going to happen. There are potentially other laws you can bring against them. They are also saying they are not guilty.

I mean clearly, I think Burr was the one who said he - you know I heard some reports on CNBC I think Loeffler, you know Kelly Loeffler said that she was told by her broker do it and she had no control over it. So that's her story.

But I'm telling you if you look at insider trading which involves stealing shareholder information and this ain't it. Maybe they have got to change the law to cover these government information to make that insider trading too because the Stock Act which is supposed to stop this sort of stuff, you know, is just too many loopholes in it it's easy to get around.

So my guess they may be destroyed in court of public opinion and at the polls, but, they ain't going to jail.

MACCALLUM: Right. Yes, it seems like that for all elected officials that are sort of the final judgment for them, whether or not they get reelected. I know Senator Loeffler said that she has all of her investments in a blind fund and she doesn't even get a report of them until weeks later.

Also, when you think about how much the market had gone up 5,000 points over the last three years or so or more than that, you know, it's probably, some would say they sold because they felt like it was time to take profits, right?

GASPARINO: Yes. You can make those cases. Listen, people are talking about the pandemic in January. Donald Trump was asked point blank by CNBC about it in January.

MACCALLUM: That's true.

GASPARINO: I will see this stuff and people think government officials are exempt from insider trading. They are not. If you trade-off material nonpublic information that's stolen from shareholders and you are a government official, you can go to jail and be convicted and all of that.

This type of information, a private briefing by Dr. Fauci - that is not insider trading. The only way that could be insider trading is if you had a criminal conspiracy with Dr. Fauci where you paid him money to give that you information, which obviously did not happen here.

This is not insider trading. But, listen, it's sleazy on a lot of levels. Kelly Loeffler husband is Jeffrey Springer who owns the New York Stock Exchange. The New York Stock Exchange did not shut the floor of the stock exchange - they are not shutting until Monday after a huge outcry.

You would think if she knew there was something really bad going on with this virus she might have told Mr. Springer and he might have shut that floor earlier where two people were infected. So that's where I think we should be asking the questions more than whether this is insider trading.

MACCALLUM: Charlie, always good to see you thank you very much. Thanks for being here tonight.


MACCALLUM: So here now Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator I want to talk to you obviously about your home state of Louisiana. What is your reaction to this percolating story about the stocks?

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): Martha, I have read the same news reports that you have. I have not talked with my four colleagues, but each has an explanation I know them pretty well. I don't believe any one of them would intentionally trade on inside information.

Senator Burr, to his credit has said, look I want an ethics investigation. I suspect that the others will follow in America just because you are accused of something doesn't mean you are guilty of it. Having said that it is a very bad look, I will also point this out. I have been in if not every one of these briefings almost everyone.

And even in the classified briefings I have been impressed first and foremost by the equivocation. It's always been, even in the classified briefings, well, we don't know. It could be this. It might be that. It's probably this.

But on the other hand, we're just not sure and then bam, it happened. We got hit by the cases on the West Coast and the market took a quick nosedive very fast.


KENNEDY: You know if there was any insider information given out, I didn't hear it.

MACCALLUM: Understood. Obviously everybody has seen these cases spike. And I want to take a look at your home State of Louisiana at the difference between yesterday and today. And I just want to say that we have been saying that these numbers would look like this and now we are seeing it. More than 150 new cases reported in Louisiana from yesterday to today. What do you say about that Senator?

KENNEDY: We're a state of 4.3 million people. We have 537 cases. About 300 of those are coming out of New Orleans. Adjusted for population, it's clear that New Orleans is a hot spot. There has been a lot of speculation that it has something to do with Mardi Gras millions of people from all over the world coming to our city in close quarters.

One or two might have had too much to drink, which lowers your immunity. We are dealing with it. I have spent the last week on the telephone trying to cut through red tape with the respect to testing and providing protective equipment for all of our people.

Our Mayor, our Governor has pretty much shut everything down. They are asking people to stay home. It's been devastating to our economy. We are an oil and gas state thanks in part to Russia and Saudi Arabia acting like two kids in the back of a minivan fighting, the bottom has fallen out of the oil and gas market.

We are also a big tourism state, particularly New Orleans. Louisianans like Americans are victors though. We are not victims. We will get through it. I think the next week or two for my state and for my country are going to be very, very critical.

We know that Coronavirus can kill you won't kill most of the people who get it. 99 percent will be fine but it can hurt you but so can hunger and so can poverty. And what we are working on right now in the United States Senate is trying to figure out a way to get money to businesses and people who are laid off to keep them going until we get control of this health wise and our economy can get back to normal and by God we are going to do it.

MACCALLUM: Yes. You touched on two I think of the most serious important issues of the moment. And one of them was the work that your Governor is working on to make sure that your hospitals have everything that they need. You were the State Treasurer of Louisiana for over a decade when you look at the finances and the ability of your state to deal with this economically as well, balance those two issues for me, if you will.

KENNEDY: Well, of course all of this is costing money for our state and local government. Their tax revenues are down. Having said that we have already passed $8.3 billion appropriation some of which going to our state and local governments and as part of our $1 trillion - that's a lot of money, Martha, $1 trillion that's $1000 billion that we're about to inject in this economy.

Part of that money is going to help state and local government as well. Look, we are going to get through this. But, what's hurting the economy as well as our psyche is the uncertainty. I wish I could say we know this is going to be over and it's going to be over here.

But, at this time but we don't and in the meantime we all have to do the best we can and we will get through. We are Americans.

MACCALLUM: Senator Kennedy, thank you very much great to have you here tonight. Thank you, sir.

KENNEDY: Thank you, Martha.

MACCALLUM: So "The Wall Street Journal" with a controversial editorial today. Is it time to rethink the shutdown of America's businesses? This will quickly become the central debate. We touched on it now. Steve Hilton is up next with some pretty strong thoughts on this after this.


MACCALLUM: So today Illinois joined California in instituting a statewide lockdown. And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shut down all non-essential businesses in the state. But some are questioning whether such safeguards are worth the permanent harm to America's economic health.

Coming up we are going to talk to an Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Amash Abaya who warns that in the end the shutdowns could cause more damage than the virus itself. He is coming up it is an idea that was echoed by "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board today.

They wrote this. "No society can safeguard public health for long at the cost of its overall economic health. Even America's resources to fight a viral plague are limitless and they will become more limited by the day as individuals lose jobs, businesses close and American prosperity gives way to poverty. America urgently needs a pandemic strategy that is more economically and socially sustainable than the current national lockdown."

Strong words from the Wall Street Journal today. Now the effects were already being felt. Jobless claims rose by 70,000 this week to 281,000. But, quote, "State level data suggest the figure could hit two million next Thursday." Think about that. Two million on the jobless claims number could happen next week and that's according to Goldman Sachs.

So, I'm joined now by our friend Steve Hilton, host of The Next Revolution. Steve, great to have you with us tonight.

Obviously, this is a controversial idea. Because what we have been talking about for the past week to 10 days is at all cost shut it down and make sure that we do everything we can to flatten the curve. How do you look at this really difficult ethical question at this point?

STEVE HILTON, FOX NEWS HOST: It is difficult, Martha. But I'm afraid I've come to very clear point of view. One that's completely in line with that editorial in the Wall Street Journal. in fact, yesterday, I wrote a piece for my show Sunday night it's going to be a longer, if you like, TV version of that editorial.

And the reason is that I come at this not as just as someone who as you know worked in the heart of a government making policy and so on. But, also as someone who had started and run small businesses including a restaurant actually, and so, I think that the conversation actually leaves out the reality of what it's like for America's businesses, in particular the smaller midsized ones because we are talking here of economic destruction on a scale that I don't think people are contemplating.

We hear people saying, it's going to be a recession. Will it be two quarters? Will it be V shaped you go down and quickly back up again? Is it going to be over and done quickly? I think the right comparison none of those things, it's actually the Great Depression if we are lucky. If we don't change course.

Because, actually, literally, they are talking about sending out checks to try and remedy the damage in April. By April you are going to have millions of businesses going under. They have got no revenue coming in. They have rent to pay. They have payroll to make. They are going to shut down. You are going to have tens of millions unemployed.

And that's why we need to both rethink the economic rescue package which I think is just not designed the right way, but most importantly debate other ways of the true goal here which is I totally agree, flattening that curve so we don't find our hospitals overwhelmed and unable to cope like in Italy.

But there's got to be alternatives than shutting down the economy for everyone. Let's focus on protecting the most vulnerable.

MACCALLUM: So, in this piece they also cited Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, and they called what he said when he was on with Maria Bartiromo the other day, they said it was happy talk. Here is the comment that they were referring to and I want to see what you think about it.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: I think once you see more and more money coming into this economy, Americans are going to feel a lot better and they are going to understand that this is a virus, we are going to get through this. This is not the financial crisis that will go on for years. We are going to destroy this virus and our economy will come roaring back better than ever.


MACCALLUM: What do you say to that, Steve?

HILTON: I just think -- I just think that's so wildly unrealistic. It sort of, assumes that you can just press pause on a business and just leave it for a few months and then press play again and it's all going to be fine. That is not the reality. These companies are going to go bust.

Literally they are going bust now day by day tomorrow, next week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Thousands and thousands of American businesses.

Remember, it's not just the economic cost. It's the human cost. All those entrepreneurs, men and women following their dream, doing what we want them to do. Employing people. Right at the heart of their communities. This is going to be absolutely devastating. It can be avoided.

Look, the president said the beginning of this week 15 days to beat the virus. Now, if it is that kind of shut down, I think we can cope. Any longer and I think it's going to be a much bigger disaster economically than the health implication.

MACCALLUM: Well, it is the beginning of a big conversation on this in the coming days and weeks and we are going to see more of it on The Revolution this weekend. Steve Hilton, thank you so much. We'll watch for it.

HILTON: Thanks, Martha.

MACCALLUM: You bet. So, Dr. Amesh Adalja on whether nationwide shutdowns can cause more harm than the virus itself. And he sees it in a number of over ways as well medically when we come back.


MACCALLUM: Fox News alert. President Trump approving requests by Senator Chuck Schumer to declare a major disaster in the state of New York. The reason for this is to allow part time employees and self-employed people to collect unemployment benefits in the coming weeks.

Earlier today, Governor Jay Inslee sent a letter to the president requesting the same for Washington State which is one of the other three largest hit states including California all trying to deal with a surge in unemployment claims.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf saying today before we can save livelihoods, we have to save lives.


GOV. TOM WOLF (D-PA): The spread of COVID-19 is increasing at an exponential pace. If we can save livelihoods, we must save lives. And so, I will be working with local officials, federal authorities and others to enforce mandatory closures.


MACCALLUM: So, one Pennsylvania doctor who you've gotten to know who has really been helping to us get through all of this with a lot of great information is now warning about the other unintended consequences of shutdown, telling the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, quote, "there is a real risk of doing more damage by threatening people's livelihoods as well as their well-being than the virus will do."

Joining me now is Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Doctor, welcome back. Great to see you again tonight. What was the point that you wanted to make there?

AMESH ADALJA, SENIOR SCHOLAR, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: I wanted to make the point that these actions have consequences. Everybody is rightly worried about COVID-19 and this is a disaster. We are going to be inundated. We are going to have deaths from this. We are going to have disruptions from it.

But it's really important that we realize that when we do this forced social distancing in terms of closing down what they call life -- nonlife sustaining businesses you really are going to have consequences that are going to impact people's lives not just to economic lives but their lives people need to work in order to be -- in order to eat. They need to feed their families. They need to do things.

And I think, I thought we have to really think about what the cost of some of these types of actions are going to be. And I don't think that that's necessarily in some of these blanket orders that are being done by governors across the country. And I really worry about that.


ADALJA: That I had to help a friend fill out an unemployment -- an unemployment application yesterday.

MACCALLUM: Yes. I mean, it's so interesting to hear you, a scientist and a doctor also warning about the rest of the implications of the shutdown. You also talked about something else that I think is interesting. And that is calling off elective surgeries and the potential for people ignoring other health issues that they have in the wake of this. Talk about that.

ADALJA: So, I don't think that there should be blanket recommendations for elective surgery. Because how can you actually define elective without really looking at what's going on individually with a patient.

Somebody may have a debilitating illness and it's considered elective because they're not dying from it but it's really impaired their quality of life. And I do think you do have to look at your hospital what personal protective equipment levels there are, what's going on in your community with spread before you make these decisions.

And there are hospitals, for example, in the Pittsburgh area that have not cancelled elective surgeries, and I think they are taking a more nuanced rational approach to this instead of blanket closing this.

Because you are going to have consequences. You are going to have people that, for example, can't get a colonoscopy for cancer screening and we may see these types of things tick up after this pandemic is over that there were all these delays in care that occurred.

So, we want to try to keep the healthcare system functioning. We need to put capacity into. We need to deal with COVID-19 but we need to remember that there are other healthcare concerns as well and we don't want those to go away.

MACCALLUM: Wow. I mean, I can hear in your voice how important this is to you. And Dr. Adalja, I thank you once again for coming on. And we'll be seeing you I hope in the coming days. Thank you very much, doctor.

ADALJA: Thanks for having me.

MACCALLUM: Important message. So, thank you.

So, Victor Davis Hanson will be joining me in a minute on the changing dynamic between the United States, China and Russia as a result of all of this. Fascinating backdrop that we will talk about when we come back on The Story. stay with us.


TRUMP: I have great respect for President Xi. I consider him to be a friend of mine. It's unfortunate that this got out of control. It came from China. It got out of control.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the issue of disinformation, is there any particular locust for this disinformation or is it diffused.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It's pretty diffused unfortunately. But we've certainly seen it come from places like China and Russia and Iran with our coordinated efforts to disparage what America is doing and our activity to do all the things that President Trump has set in motion here.


ALLEN: The pandemic and secrecy surrounding it coming from China and Russia has posed global concern. Now the two are in ever title -- tighter consultation amid reports that they are using the virus to extend control over their countries and to spread some propaganda about the United States as well.

Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and author of "The Case for Trump." Victor, great to see you tonight.


MACCALLUM: How would you say these two countries Russia and China are using this situation to benefit their leaders?

HANSON: Well, you have got to remember that before this started they were losing, if we can use that term, Martha, Russia was suffering terribly from collapsing oil prices which they blamed on U.S. fracking and China was looking at a recalibration of the trade agreements with the Trump administration and they were terrified of it.

And no need to mention Iran. They were under tough sanctions and they were all in not very good position. And when this started, they saw an opportunity and they looked at it very differently than we do.

We've lost today, Martha, about 250 Americans tragically out of 20,000 cases. We think that's humanitarian disaster. They look at in a very different way. They look at the GDP that's been lost, liquidity that's been wiped out, the stocks and they come up with a figure of around 10 trillion.

And they say you know what? Those crazy Americans, $40 billion is a person they have wiped out in their economy and this is great. And so, what we need to do is tell the world that they are even more culpable, they are more incompetent and make them double down and do this and wreck that economy and get this pressure off us. That's behind a lot of it.

We think, my gosh, we still have 1.2 percent of the people who have infections that are dying. They don't. They say, you know what? They were 3 percent. Then they were 2 percent. Then they were 1.6. Now they're 1.5 and today we are 1.2 and that's because the case load is expanding and it wasn't as virulent as all the models may have projected but we can't let them do that because they want us to do what we are doing. And we want to do what we are doing.

But we have to take a little break and say you know what, we are ruining a very sophisticated economy that has not only helped issues as your prior guest so cogently argued, but it was geo strategic implications, that's life and death as well.

MACCALLUM: I mean, you make such great points and I want to just go back in to sort of analyze a little bit on the Russian side. Because, you know, they didn't report anything. And then suddenly they reported, you know, sort of a run-up in cases. And both of these situations we don't really have the ability to look at this as transparent in terms of their numbers.

But, are they as authoritarian leaders using this within their own countries also to expand their ability to control their people?

HANSON: Absolutely. And no figure that comes out of China, Russia, Iran is worth anything. And they are doing this because, as I said earlier, they were in crisis. The United States, the irony of this, Martha, we were in a much stronger position every week, vis-a-vis, all these countries.

Russia's ambitions in Syria were threatened because their income was half. Iran was under such sanctions they killed 1,500 of their own people. They have lied about the virus. They have lied about the Ukrainian airliner. They were in extremists. And the same holds true to an even greater degree in China.

And that represented to these leader's possible internal dissension and so they are using this threat to clamp down. And that drives some of it.


HANSON: But a lot is driven against us because they are afraid. They know that when this is over, Martha, with near zero interest rates and record low energy prices and massive relocations of key industries in the United States and the relief from the coronavirus -- the United States economy is going to boom if we don't extinguish it now. It's going to take off and they will be in worse position.

And so, for them, this is an existential geostrategic struggle. And I'm a humanitarian, but I'm also 66 and I understand that we're in a greater risk.

But I don't think that in a cost-benefit analysis in humanitarian terms that we're going to save more lives on the present course. I think we're going to lose a lot more and we are going to be far weaker and that's going to cost lives in the long run too on the global stage.

MACCALLUM: Very interesting assessment as always. Victor Davis Hanson, thank you so much for being with us tonight. Be well.

HANSON: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: So, in a moment, we're going to talk about -- we have been talking about the drive-thru testing for viruses and this priest is offering a different kind of drive-thru when we come back.


MACCALLUM: It is a strange and sad weird moment in America when no one is going to church. But one priest in Maryland has found a way to serve his community. Look at the beautiful picture. I love this picture. He offers drive-through confessions at a socially distant safe distance in the parking lot on Sundays.

Father Scott Holmer joins us now. Father, great to have with us tonight. Thank you very much for being here.


MACCALLUM: How did you come up with this idea and what's the response been? How is it going?

HOLMER: Yes, so, I am 10 minutes before we usually hear confessions on Saturday at about, you know, 3.50 p.m. I was thinking what we can do. And I just had the idea of getting some orange cones and putting them in the parking lot and then putting my chair over by the cones, and I just had a friend who is giving direction to, he was deserting a call to the priesthood and I said if anybody comes just guide them through the cones.

And then someone in the line must have taken a picture and it was that picture that went viral and now I'm on your show. So that's kind of how it happened. Yes.

MACCALLUM: So how is -- how is the response, you know, do you think people are going to continue to come for this? You know, will people respond to it?

HOLMER: Yes, they already have and because all the media attention there's been a lot of people coming now because they've heard about it. The people who are coming are incredibly grateful just for the opportunity to still receive the sacrament of reconciliation. So that's been a really great joy to be able to offer it to those folks.

It's just, you know, it's hard for a priest and not to be able to see people, you know, it was really hard this past weekend on my heart. And so just being able to see some of my familiar faces is really good. They all stay in their cars, right, I'm really adamant about that. But it's very good to see some friendly faces again in my community at St. Edward's.

MACCALLUM: Well, I can tell and I'm sure they feel the same way, Father Holmer. Before I let you go, you know, it strikes me during Lent that, you know, we always give something up but we've given up so many things, you know, a church, the ability to be with our friends and family at a close, you know, at close range and in a crowd of people to go to a restaurant and doing all the normal things that we do. What are your thoughts on that before we say good night?

HOLMER: Yes. I would say keep your focus on Pentecost, right. So, you go through Lent, you go through the desert. There's going to come through a time we'll be all be able to gather together and this thing will be over. Right? And so, we got to look forward to the great hope in that time and it will be renewed as a result of this, you know. And hopefully that renewal will bring us back in a deeper relationship with God.

MACCALLUM: Is there -- is there an upside, you know, so sort of the contemplation and the quiet of being at home with just, you know, closest members of your family, is there an upside?

HOLMER: In some ways, yes. I mean, you get to spend more time with your family and your loved ones. You know, historically, the response to a plague has always been deeper prayer, right, so there is an opportunity for that deeper silence and for folks to really deepen the relationship with each other as they are spending more time with one another.

So, there can be an upside too, I agree with that. That's a good point.

MACCALLUM: Yes. Yes, I mean, I feel that. You know, we've, like so many families, our kids are at home and everybody is together, we're having dinner together just sitting around the table.

HOLMER: Right.

MACCALLUM: We played scrabble last night.


MACCALLUM: You know, I mean, now you can go out and get some exercise. So, I think there are some positives, and there's always something positive in all of these difficult situations. Father, Father Holmer, thank you so much.

HOLMER: Awesome.

MACCALLUM: Great to have you with us tonight. Thank you. Good night, sir.

HOLMER: Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it. Thanks. yes.

MACCALLUM: Thank you. Take care. So that's The Story of Friday, March 20th, 2020. But as always, The Story continues. We're going to see you back here tomorrow night -- or Monday night, I should say, but stay safe everybody over the weekend. Thank for being with us. We'll check back in with Father Holmer as this progresses. Be well. Good night, everybody.

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